This is an important ruling for Oregon Drug Crimes Attorneys as it applies to searches in Oregon.
In 2006 Joelis Jardines’ Florida home was approached by two Miami-Dade police detectives. The two detectives approached the front door, but they did not knock.
Under ordinary circumstances, there is nothing unusual, or illegal, with the police entering a person’s property to approach the front door. The police are granted the same right to enter property that a peddler or a girl scout exercises when they sell their wares. In fact, the police refer to such investigatory contacts as a “knock and talk.”
The problem in Jardines case was the dog the Detectives brought with them. Their four legged friend was no ordinary animal, but a highly trained drug sniffing canine. The dog “alerted” at the front door, indicating that one of several illicit drugs was present in the home. The Detectives retreated from the porch and obtained a search warrant based on the dog’s observations. When they executed the warrant, the Detectives found growing marijuana on the premises.
The case, Florida v. Jardines, made its way to the United States Supreme Court. The case was decided on March 26, 2013.
The majority opinion was written by Justice Antonin Scalia, perhaps the most conservative person on the Supreme Court. Justice Scalia observed that the Court has long held that a person’s residence and the surrounding area are private and protected from unreasonable intrusions by the government. He noted that, while the police are allowed to approach a front door of a person’s home, they are not allowed to engage in conduct that is beyond that which a person would expect from a visitor.
Applying that concept to the conduct of these Florida Detectives, Justice Scalia held that bringing a police dog on a visit to a person’s front door goes far beyond the scope of the customary invitation one gives to those knocking on their door.
Justice Scalia stated: “[I]ntoducing a trained police dog to explore the area around the home in hopes of discovering incriminating evidence is something else. There is no customary invitation to do that. An invitation to engage in canine forensic investigation assuredly does not inhere in the very act of hanging a knocker. To find a visitor knocking on the door is routine (even if sometimes unwelcome); to spot that same visitor exploring the front path with a metal detector, or marching his bloodhound into the garden before saying hello and asking permission, would inspire most of us to – well – call the police.”
This is a common sense ruling that firmly backs property rights.
James F. O’Rourke, Jr. is an Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyer who represents persons who have been arrested as a result of searches by drug sniffing dogs.